The National Science Foundation late last month announced four research projects focused on developing a more robust and secure Internet.

The projects -- each of which will get up to $8 million over three years -- are part of the NSF's Future Internet Architecture program. The NSF said 60 researchers at over 30 institutions will evaluate the following schemes:

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Mobility First. The original Internet was based on fixed endpoints, but this new architecture would be "centered on mobility as the norm, rather than the exception," the NSF said. It would support context- and location-aware services and use "self-certifying public-key addresses" for security.

Named Data Networking. Instead of routing traffic based on computers' IP addresses, this new architecture would focus on the actual content ("named data") being transported and then secure the data itself rather than the communications path.

"It is a radical shift, but one that we think enables a qualitatively better path to eliminating redundant network traffic, securing communications, and enabling very large numbers of wireless and mobile devices," said Patrick Crowley, a computer scientist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Nebula. This architecture would turn the Internet into a global cloud computing system of data centers, all linked by a high-speed, extremely reliable and secure backbone network.

Expressive Internet Architecture. This would include built-in security so that users can be assured that the Web sites they visit and the documents they download are legitimate. Also, users would obtain content from the closest source, not necessarily the original host of the content.

"A lot of wisdom is embedded in the current Internet, and we'll retain that," said Peter Steenkiste, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University. "But parts of it are clearly broken and can't be fixed with incremental steps."

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